Lymphedema management

Andrea L. Cheville, Charles L. McGarvey, Jeanne A. Petrek, Sandra A. Russo, Marie E. Taylor, Saskia R.J. Thiadens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Lymphedema, defined as the abnormal accumulation of protein rich fluid dysfunction of the lymphatic system, is a common sequela of cancer therapy. The incidence is highest among patients who have undergone resection and irradiation of a lymph node bed. Recently, increased attention has been focused on the modification of anticancer therapies in an effort to minimize lymphatic compromise. Sentinel lymph node biopsy is an example of a surgical procedure developed to preserve lymphatic function. Concurrent with the development of less invasive treatments, the field of lymphedema management has evolved rapidly over the past decade. Combined manual therapy, often referred to as complex decongestive physiotherapy (CDP), has emerged as the standard of care. CDP combines compression bandaging, manual lymphatic drainage (a specialized massage technique), exercise, and skin care with extensive patient education. Case series collectively describing a mean 65% volume reduction in over 10,000 patients attest its efficacy. Pneumatic compression pumps were historically widely used to control lymphedema. Their use as an isolated treatment modality is now rare. Reliance on pumps diminished with the recognition that they may exacerbate truncal and genital lymphedema, as well as injure peripheral lymphatics when applied at high pressures. Many noncompressive approaches, particularly the use of benzopyrone medications and liposuction, continue to be used abroad.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-301
Number of pages12
JournalSeminars in Radiation Oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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